Millennials have a lot of advantages that their Baby Boomer parents didn't. Boomers grew up thinking "apps" were something to eat before the salad course. Boomers had to know how to read paper maps. The more talented ones knew how to fold them so they didn't look like ostrich origami. That's all true, but Baby Boomers have a memory ace in their pockets. They saw Monty Python's Flying Circus on television. The sharp social commentary, sly tweaks of British royalty, and comic editorializing of American culture was worth watching on a 12-inch cathode ray tube. Friday night, Tacoma Musical Playhouse brought Python to stage in the form of "Spamalot." It was a high-energy night of great entertainment. Millennials will enjoy it as fresh comedy. Baby Boomers will remember and laugh, all over again. The show will continue through April 9. Friday and Saturday evening shows begin at 7: 30 p.m. Sunday matinees start at 2 p.m.
The Tacoma Musical Playhouse crowd, for the most part, remembered the material. Rather than taking away from the laughter, familiarity bred an anticipatory wave of "Here it comes," and "I love this part best of all." Both were heard from the audience, and more than once. It just goes to show that Python humor is timeless.
The familiar "turned on its head" musical about King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table on a quest for the Holy Grail can win or lose based on the singing voices taking it on. Director/Choreographer Jon Douglas Rake had an especially confident air as he introduced the show to Friday's Opening Night audience. He knew the singers backstage would make him proud. And so they did! John Cooper's King Arthur was adequate at times and splendid in others. Mauro Bozzo's Sir Robin was splendid most of the time and adequate at others. Jake Atwood's three characters benefited from his improving voice. Atwood's real-life voice lessons are paying off for a young thespian who is already a master at the acting portion of his craft.
Yes, the singing from the men in the main part of the cast was good to excellent. The singing from Trista Duval's Lady of the Lake was over the moon! Ms. Duval sang with her natural voice, and then channeled everyone from Cher to Britney Spears! Through it all, her voice soared confidently without falling off-key even once. It was a virtuoso performance without a hint of fake bravura. Her comic timing would have matched her singing if her singing wasn't unmatched. She is worth the price of admission.
Derek Hall played Sir Dennis Galahad. Comedy is Mr. Hall's lane and he played it to the hilt on Opening Night. His evocative face can display any emotion called for in the script and nail it to the wall. During the week the University of Northern Colorado graduate teaches choir at Mount Tahoma High School. His students should listen closely to his lessons. Derek Hall can act, and he can sing. A multi-talented performer such as Hall is a valuable member of any cast.
Comedy is, of course, Spamalot's main stock-in-trade. Much of it is obvious to the point of over-the-top. One character, however, played his comedic role in an understated way. Sam Barker as Patsy is the subtle comedian on stage. His performance shouldn't be overlooked. His arched eyebrow and shrugged shoulder are a welcome undertone to the chaos surrounding the rest of the show.
One comedy moment Opening Night will likely not be repeated in future performances. In a way that's a shame. Gary Chambers was playing the famous French Taunter part from the top of the castle. At one point he snorted in laughter and had to stop and compose himself. It was a Carol Burnett moment for those old enough to remember her variety show.
Too often theater reviews fail to mention the support staff. A special nod is due to TMP's costume manager Jocelyne Fowler. She dressed everyone well and appropriately. She blew the top off of the joint with the red wrap over white dress in which she clothed The Lady of the Lake at show's end. That outfit, along with the choice of garments for the Laker Girls, showed both skill and an understanding of the spirit of "Spamalot" on the part of Jocelyne Fowler and her staff. In addition to Ms. Fowler's costumes, the set design was solid and believable. It was altogether an excellent job by the support staff.
There were a couple of Opening Night glitches, certain to be improved on as the run continues. The sound effects were late at times. Trista Duval's microphone failed during one of her speaking sections. Luckily, by the time it was her turn to sing again the faulty microphone had been fixed or replaced. Missing out on her spoken words was too bad. Missing out on one of her songs would have been a stage tragedy.
It was ironic that John Cleese was playing Tacoma's Broadway Center for the Performing Arts the same night as "Spamalot" opened at TMP. Cleese played Sir Lancelot in the movie. Bruce Haasl played Lancelot on the Tacoma Musical Playhouse stage. Haasl was excellent, blending in with a fine show. It is easy to imagine John Cleese anonymously in the audience enjoying Haasl's performance and standing with the rest of the crowd in an ovation for the cast at the end of the show.
Tickets to "Spamalot" are available from the Tacoma Musical Playhouse ticketing page, or by calling 253-565-6867. TMP is located at 7116 6th Ave in Tacoma. Call for tickets today and the Knights that say "Ni" shan't be knocking at the door.